(BUSINESS NEWS) US Retailers may see the biggest hits in 6 months as their supply chain has been disrupted due to the coronavirus.

While the COVID-19 aka coronavirus situation is escalating quickly across the world, something that is evident is that supply chains that provide to retailers will see serious issues even six months from now. According to Forbes, because retailers follow a “two-season model with long lead times”, it is in about six months when US markets will really see the impact in products that require longer production times in manufacturing.

“Given that the Coronavirus originated in China and the sheer volume of clothing manufacturers that are based there, it is inevitable that there will be an impact on the fashion supply chain as factories shut and production slows.”

There is also going to be issues with other products that seem to be easy for us to get – especially if any of those products relied on parts from China. “Each product entails many elements before it reaches you: the raw material, the manufacturing, packaging, transportation and distribution.

Each one takes a journey using ocean, rail, air and road before being made available to your store or doorstep. Imagine each of these steps having its own complex supply chain network connected globally.” – Nick Vyas, executive director of the Center for Global Supply Chain Management at the USC Marshall School of Business.

Phsy.Org predicts that the US and Global Supply Chain will adjust by working with manufacturing warehouses that are closer to home (say Mexico) and will work to quickly mitigate risks but also this will require a complete re-design of our current global supply chain structure. No longer will cost be the only factor, but companies will be looking for providers that can help them mitigate risk, supply chain resiliency and a push for more diversification.

Small business retailers are reporting a variety of impacts – some which don’t seem so big today but can grow exponentially as their events and trade shows are cancelled where they used to be able to meet new clients and potentially sell more wholesale products and meet distributors.

“Laurie O’Hara, founder and CEO of Olita, an all-natural and organic skin-care company based in San Rafael, California, said she sells nationwide on Amazon and to surf shops and beach boutiques, as well as in hotels, resorts, grocery stores and pharmacies. The company has a large footprint in Hawaii and a growing presence in California and Florida. O’Hara has had two trade shows cancel, costing her out-of-pocket cash, and Olita has also experienced shipment delays.”

Other issues have been not receiving products via their supply chain, slower foot traffic in their brick and mortars and some employees calling in sick.

There is no doubt this virus affects every single person, company, small to large business, entrepreneur and product we interact with. The initial stories of grocery stores not being able to stock up shelves fast enough to hospitals not having enough beds for those who are sick – let alone N95 face masks.

Six months seems far away and not that far off and this story seems to keep evolving by the day. We must continue to rely on each other for how to best protect ourselves/loved ones from the spread. We must search far and wide for any positive outcomes or silver linings. We have to keep the human capacity for resiliency top of mind. And really consciously consider where to spend our dollars that may help out businesses the most.

Erin Wike is a Career Coach & Lecturer at The University of Texas at Austin and owner of Cafe Con Resume. Erin is fueled by dark roast coffee with cream AND sugar, her loving husband, daughter, and two rescue dogs. She is the Co-Founder of Small Business Friends ATX to help fellow entrepreneurs + hosts events for people to live a Life of Yes with Mac & Cheese Productions.

(BUSINESS NEWS) Apple’s being hit with one of France’s all-time biggest fines…what did they do this time? Put resellers between a rock and an even harder rock.

The coronavirus isn’t the only thing putting a damper on businesses – the French government recently hit Apple with a $1.2 billion fine. Granted, this isn’t entirely a fair comparison. Many small businesses are hurting from the unexpected effects of the virus.

Meanwhile Apple is, well, Apple. You know, the business that’s made headlines in the past for edging out independent resellers, making products that are incredibly difficult to fix and purposefully slowing down older phones. That Apple.

Anyway, this time, Apple’s being hit with a record-breaking fine (really! According to Politico, it’s one of the biggest fine the French government has ever issued) for violating antitrust laws. This comes after an almost eight year investigation by the Autorité de la Concurrence, which regulates competition in the country. And turns out, eight years of investigating has yielded quite a bit of dirt.

First, Apple literally made agreements with some of its wholesale companies–notably Tech Data and Ingram Micro–to not compete with each other, which in turn made it harder for resellers to stay afloat. But that was just the start. Apple also pushed resellers into matching Apple prices, even going so far as to bully companies that offered lower prices by allegedly limiting their supply.

Basically, if you’re wondering why Apple products are so darn expensive, one reason is that the company seems to have gone out of its way to keep anyone from offering lower prices. In fact, the entire investigation was started because Apple reseller, eBizcuss.com, filed a complaint on the matter. (eBizcuss.com has since gone out of business, if you’re wondering.)

It’s also worth noting that the company managed to avoid this fine for years. In 2013, during the investigation, some of Apple’s French offices were raided, leading to Apple hitting the Autorité de la Concurrence with a lawsuit of their own. The case was resolved in 2018 – the raids were deemed legal – and Apple’s time finally ran out.

Apple plans to appeal the fine, but judging by the way Apple has been catching worldwide attention for the last few years, this probably isn’t the last we’ll hear of their questionable business practices.

(BUSINESS NEWS) Can an employee refuse to work for fear of COVID-19 infection? Can we put employees on unpaid leave of absence? Can we ask for medical information? One Texas law firm answers these and other questions.

Our globe is officially somewhere we haven’t been in modern history, as the COVID-19 pandemic chokes off businesses worldwide, leaving confusion in its wake. Employees have been Googling their rights, but employers are in an equally tenuous position.

Fortunately, Texas law firm, Bell Nunnally is on top of it, not only putting together a library of resources, but noting, “we know your business is determined to continue forward, as is ours. Our attorneys and staff, along with our files and documents, remain fully accessible, as they always have been.”

To that effect, they published a full list of questions and answers on Tuesday, and the following guidance is in their own words from Bell Nunnally website:

U.S. employers are in uncharted territory in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic. The following is guidance for employers based on the information currently available. As the situation continues to evolve on a daily basis, our team will continue to keep you apprised of relevant developments. As always, please feel free to call us with additional questions.

Yes. Employers in Texas can put employees on an unpaid leave of absence to ensure the safety and security of its workplace. Employers should be careful to use reasonable, non-discriminatory measures to determine who should be put on a mandatory leave. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has published guidelines for employers to use to protect their workforce.

During the H1N1 pandemic, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) stated that requiring workers to go home is not disability-related if the symptoms present are akin to the seasonal influenza or the H1N1 virus. Therefore, an employer may require workers to go home if they exhibit symptoms of the COVID-19 coronavirus or the flu. Employers may also consider implementing a mandatory quarantine policy for employees who have come in contact with an infected person or have recently traveled to severely impacted parts of the country or the world, such as Seattle or China. The CDC has issued guidance suggesting the incubation period for the virus can be as long as 14 days so employers may choose to require a 14-day quarantine for employees returning from severely impacted areas. Employers should be careful not to rely on stereotypes or target specific groups by race, religion or national origin in determining who should go on leave.

An extended unpaid leave—especially in the case of a 14-day quarantine—could have a tremendous financial impact on some workers. While not required by law, employers may consider some partial pay options in the event an employee is put on leave due to possible Coronavirus.

Employers should also consider work from home possibilities to allow employees to continue working without risking the health of the workplace.

Congress is considering expanding Family Medical Leave Act protections to families impacted by COVID-19 and requiring employers to provide some form of paid sick leave. As of today, the legislation has not passed the Senate.

It depends. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from requiring medical examinations and making disability-related inquiries unless: (1) the employer can show that the inquiry or exam is job-related and consistent with business necessity; or (2) the employer has a reasonable belief that the employee poses a “direct threat” to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot otherwise be eliminated or reduced by reasonable accommodation. The EEOC’s position during a pandemic is that employers should rely on the latest CDC and state or local public health assessments to determine whether the pandemic rises to the level of a “direct threat.” Given that President Trump declared Coronavirus a “national emergency” on March 13, 2020, it is likely reasonable for employers to make health-related inquires and/or take the temperature of a potentially ill employee. That being said, employers should limit the focus of the inquiry to determining whether the employee may have contracted Coronavirus and limit that information to the smallest number of people that “need to know” in the organization. Employers must protect the health information of employees, which would include any documentation related to Coronavirus to be housed in the employee’s medical file separate from the standard employment file.

Only if the employee reasonably believes he or she is in imminent danger, which essentially means that he or she reasonably thinks that reporting to work would result in immediate death or serious physical harm. While asking an employee to travel certain parts of the world (i.e., China, Italy) may rise to this level, coming to work in the United States is unlikely to rise to this level based on the information available now. However, employers should remain sensitive to employee fear as we progress through the pandemic and try to work cooperatively with employees to keep everyone safe, calm and working. Do short term disability or business interruption insurance cover this?

Employers should contact their short term disability carriers to inquire as to whether Coronavirus would be a covered illness under their policy. Often there is a one-week waiting requirement before benefits begin, so in some cases, the employee may not qualify if the mandatory leave is less than one week. Similarly, the employee would not qualify if he or she is asymptomatic but simply quarantined.

Unfortunately, most business interruption policies require some type of property damage for coverage to apply. But employers are encouraged to contact their insurance brokers or carriers to evaluate what coverage may be available. What if my company is a nonsubscriber to workers’ compensation insurance?

For Texas nonsubscribers to workers compensation employees testing positive for the virus are likely not covered under your work injury benefit plans. The benefit plans are designed to cover only those work injuries suffered in the “course and scope of employment.” For that reason, the benefit plans only cover “occupational diseases” (those encountered exclusively in the workplace), not diseases the general population is exposed to. Even if an employee contends they were infected by a co-worker who was previously diagnosed, it is just as likely that employee was infected outside of work in the multitude manners in which the virus is transmitted in the community.

(BUSINESS NEWS) Facebook is suing Namecheap for protecting their clients. Facebook claims deceptive practices; Namecheap counters Facebook has no right to this information.

In a classic, “Do as I say, not as I do” move, Facebook is accusing Namecheap of allowing deceptive practices, despite their own troubling history of deceptive practices (according to Namecheap’s reply). Facebook is suing Namecheap and Whoisguard, its identity protection agency, for allowing people to register names too similar to Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

Despite Facebook’s being in hot water for giving away too much information to political entities and other advertisers, and not shutting down fake accounts for years now, they are angry at domain registration site, Namecheap, for being deceptive. It’s a bit of Facebook living in a glass house, yet obliviously, litigiously throwing stones.

Since October 2018, according to Facebook, they have been trying to get Namecheap and Whoisguard to reveal the identities of domain name owners who’ve set up websites including instagrambusinesshelp.com, facebo0k-login.com, and whatsappdownload.site.

Are those names misleading? I’m sure they are meant to be. Setting up a website that is similar to a large brand is a real jerk move. It falls in the sketchy zone, for sure, but MIND YOU, I’M NO LAWYER. Are these websites illegally capitalizing on the Facebook trademark? Or are they expressing free speech?

To a layperson like me, it seems like Namecheap and Whoisguard’s clients are skirting the rules a bit. Namecheap claims to shut down domains and websites daily for trademark infringement, but the complainant has to follow the same protocol in reporting them as everyone else. Facebook needs a court-ordered subpoena in order to get Namecheap’s customers’ names.

Namecheap employs Whoisguard to protect their customers’ identities, and they have no intention of handing them over to Facebook. They’re not taking the accusations lying down. In their official response, “Namecheap believes our customers have rights just like large corporations, and we stand firm against any company or entity that insists on invading privacy without due process.”

Namecheap states that Facebook needs to clean their own backyard of privacy breaches and deceptive practices before going after anyone else.

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